Swarthmore Music Department’s newest faculty member, Professor Lei Ouyang Bryant, is no stranger to small liberal arts colleges—this is her fourteenth year of teaching at one. However, her experiences as both a teacher and musician stretch far beyond that scope. As an ethnomusicologist specializing in East Asia and Asian America, she has also traveled to California, Ethiopia, and Taiwan to teach piano, violin, music, English, and dance to age groups spanning preschool to adult.
Professor Bryant’s musical background is as diverse and extensive as her teaching experiences. She studied violin, piano, and ballet throughout childhood and college, and learned Chinese music and dance growing up in her local Chinese American community in Minnesota. She also took up Taiko drumming during a semester abroad in Japan. After her undergraduate studies, she spent two years traveling and teaching, which deepened her interests in ethnomusicology. Says Professor Bryant, “I examine issues of music and memory, identity, politics, race and ethnicity, popular culture, and social justice. Ethnomusicology combines my interests in music, culture, and research.” This year, she will teach “Music Cultures of the World,” “Taiko & the Asian American Experience,” and “Music, Race, and Class,” and is currently co-directing the Music Department’s new Chinese Music ensemble.
Professor Bryant attended a small liberal arts college for undergraduate studies, and highly values the relationships she had with professors and peers in shaping her personal and professional life. When asked about teaching at Swarthmore, she responds, “I am honored to be able to work with undergraduate students in so many different facets of their lives. There is a very long list of reasons why I was interested in coming to Swarthmore, and at the top is the College’s strong commitment to access and civic engagement along with the diverse and highly motivated student body.” Professor Bryant believes her field of ethnomusicology is an ideal fit for a small liberal arts school because of the interdisciplinarity of the subject, and she looks forward to building connections with other courses and professors. “It is incredibly exciting to join a department of faculty to share a deep commitment to students as well as their own professional work as scholars and artists.”
Maya Kikuchi ’20
Photo by Gary Gold